Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Machete: An Ecologist's Anger Management

Today was our second day in the field at the beautiful Yvaga Guazu.  While yesterday our monkey families were relatively easy to find and easy to follow, this morning was full of monkey watching failures.  We arrived at the site around 6:00 AM and immediately went separate directions to seek out our designated titi families in their known territories.  I thought my day was off to a great start when I spotted my clan about 10m from the trail in what I now assume to be their sleeping tree.  Nothing compares to the excitement of actually finding the right monkeys only 15 minutes into the field day the very first time you're thrown into the wilds solo.  I watched quietly through my binoculars as one by one my family members descended the resting branch and jumped to a near by tree; my male went first, with baby titi on his back, followed closely by the female and the three older offspring.  Then things took a turn for the worse...I lost my monkeys.  Tricky little things decided to disappear into the most unaccessible bowels of the G4 territory (btw that's the name of my family...G4).  The next THREE hours were spent traipsing up and down, back and forth, in and around all the possible trails in that territory.  Nothing.  My first few minutes on the job and I'd already lost the only monkeys for which I was responsible.  There was a potential breakthrough around 8:30 AM when monkey chatter began to resonate through the trees.  The calls initiated from an unknown group in a nearby territory and quickly spread to two more of which was my beloved G4.  Run, run, run, trip over the occasional vine, frantically grab binoculars, monkey sounds get louder and louder, think I'm getting so close, get hopes up...never actually get a good look at monkeys.  That's pretty much how it went down.  Those guys know their way around a forest canopy, that's for sure.

Well luckily everyone else shared in my monkey pains...turns out nobody successfully found AND followed their assigned family.  It was reassuring to find out I wasn't completely incompetent.  I'm choosing to blame these troubles on Mother Nature.  It was raining.  Now I'm no titi monkey, but if I were a titi monkey, I don't think I'd like the rain.  I think I would try and find a comfy dry spot for myself and my family and just hang out there until it once again became sunshiny...or until I got hungry.  This is problematic for us however, because now our titis are conveniently hidden from human observers.  Three hours of no monkeys is both frustrating and exhausting.  Good thing we brought machetes.

I am now 100% positive that the best cure for frustration, anger, stress, and/or boredom is the machete.  Remember those unreachable depths of G4 territory I mentioned earlier?  Yeah.  We blazed trails right through that green, twisty jungle.  It was the most oddly satisfying thing I did all day.  Those vines in my path?  Macheted.  Those twigs snagging my hair?  Macheted.  Those random sticks I felt weren't necessary?  Macheted.  I can save you lots of money on a therapist right now and tell you to just go find yourself a patch of overgrown wilderness and take a machete to it.  You'll feel 10x better.  Two hours and a few sore biceps later, we have a some lovely (and walkable) trails on which to follow our monkeys.  Bueno.

FUN SCIENCE FACT #5: The Bolivian grey titi monkey (Callicebus donacophilus) is thought to be the most monogamous of all the monkey species.  Awwww...que lindo.  PS: C. donacophilus...that's the kind of monkey we're researching.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous, I enjoyed reading that story very much. Looking forward to more.
    Lisa Simonson